Iain Ferguson

Salmond smiling

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Anyone wanting to understand the reasons for the Scottish National Party's landslide election victory in Scotland on 5 May could do worse than read the speech delivered by Alex Salmond as he was sworn in as first minister on 20 May.

Echoing Woody Guthrie's famous anthem, Salmond went out of his way to welcome new Italian, Pakistani and Middle Eastern members of the Scottish Parliament, saying, "This land is their land...it belongs to all who choose to call it home. This includes new Scots who have escaped persecution or conflict in Africa or the Middle East...We offer a hand to all, whether they hail from England, Ireland, Pakistan or Poland."

Injustice: Why Social Inequality Persists

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Daniel Dorling, Policy Press, £19.99

A veteran Tory MP recently suggested that people who travel standard class in trains "are a totally different type of people". Not surprisingly, he was quickly slapped down by David Cameron since that kind of elitism doesn't exactly fit the image of the new, reformed Tory party. Nevertheless, the belief that certain groups of people are inherently superior to others is one of several that have helped to create and sustain the highest levels of income inequality in Britain since the Second World War.

Imperialism and Global Political Economy

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Alex Callinicos, Polity; £16.99

The notion of "imperialism" is firmly back on the global agenda. For many thousands of people who have become politically active over the past decade through involvement in the great movements against war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, it helps inform the way in which they now make sense of the world.

The Spirit Level

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Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, Allen Lane; £20

In their preface to this book, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett note that "people usually exaggerate the importance of their own work and we worry about claiming too much". In fact, despite some weaknesses to be discussed below, The Spirit Level is by any criterion a groundbreaking work and one that deserves the widest possible readership.

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